BETA

SONNET

On the Battle between Mendoza and Tom Owen, at Banstead Downs,
July 4th, 1820.

Is this Mendoza ? —This the Jew
Of whom* my fancy cherished
So beautiful a waking dream,
A vision which has perished.
(Extempore on seeing the battle. W. W.)
Superfluous lags the veteran on the stage,” 1
Said Samuel Johnson many a year ago, 2
In stately verse ; and now its truth we know3
When we behold Mendoza, bent with age,4

* Query—The Fancy ? But no. I crush the ungenerous sentiment. Mendoza’s re-
putation has not perished in the souls of the Fancy. His imaginative faculties may have
been clouded by age ; they were mortal, and faded away; but his former deeds—his bril-
liant qualities—his undoubted valour—his unrivalled science, are written with a pencil of
light, and, incapable of injury, will flourish as long as water flows, or tall trees bloom.
When I said that the vision my fancy had formed had perished, I only meant, that the
ideal creation I had figured to myself of Mendoza, had vanished in the cold consciousness
of knowing his existence through the gross medium of the external senses. For, as the
picture of the actual Yarrow flowing before the eyes, beautiful as it is, is less delightful
than the imagined stream ; so is the actual Mendoza than the fancied. W. W.
Throw up his hat at Banstead,* and engage5
Tom Owen ! —That the diamond of the ring6
In eighty-nine, the eastern star, the king7
Of scientific pugilists, in the page8
Of Boxiana, hymned by Fancy’s pen9
As one long swathed in glory, should forego10
His old renown, appears to thoughtful men11
Most †ominous ! O Daniel, Daniel O ! ‡ 12
Why, when you cried, I go to fight Ow-en, 13
Did no kind genius echo back N—O14

* I have seen some illiberal criticism asserting that Mendoza has sunk in repute since
this unfortunate encounter, vid. int. alia the Sporting Magazine, for July, p. 174, &c.
Narrow-hearted critics ! as if the senilities of genius were to make us forget its meridian
splendour ! Did the tears of dotage make Marlborough less the flower of generals ? Did
the drivelling of Swift render him less the first of wits ? Did the literarum oblivio of Or-
bilius degrade him from the rank of prince of pedagogues ? Did Porson’s last moments—
But no more. If these questions be answered, as they must, in the negative, how can we
affirm that the folly of Mendoza’s old age has made us forget the conqueror of Humph-
ries, of Martin, of Bill Ward—the hero of thirty pitched battles ?
† Whether omens attended the ill-fated fight I know not. Cervantes, however, ap-
pears to have prophetically alluded to Mendoza’s misfortune, in Don Quixote, part II. chp-
58. “ Derramasele al otro Mendoza la sal encima de la mesa, y derramasele à el la me-
lancolia
[Smollett translates this fear and melancholy—a mere gratuitous libel on Mer
pm) como si estuviesse obligada la naturaleza a dàr senales de las venideras desgracias.
Smollett sinks the name of Mendoza, thereby spoiling a fine prophecy. To be sure he
puts it in his note ; but is this treating his author with due respect ? I should be glad to
know whether Mendoza did actually spill any salt on the fatal morning of the 4th of
July ? As he is a “ constant reader” of your Magazine, I hope he will inform us, with-
out delay, on this important subject.
‡ Borrowed from—
O Sophonisba ! Sophonisba O ! ’
J. Thomson.
O Jemmy Thomson ! Jemmy Thomson O ! ’
Anonymous, from the gallery.
O Huncamunca ! Huncamunea O ! ’
Tom Thumb.
§ I confess my obligation here to the much-honoured tome of Joe Miller, for this reflex
echo of the name of Ow-en. “ Can I,” says a certain person in Josephus, “ see Mr Ow-en ? ”
N-O,” was the reply of the facete domestic, to whom the question was addressed. I
may remark, that Mr Miller is rather lax in omitting to assign date, name, and place, to
his amusing, but little-credited tales. The reader is frequently inclined to suspect that
a certain person,” “ a gentleman once,” “ a fair lady,” “ a great wit,” are mere figures
of the author’s brain. An authentic Joe Miller is a desideratum, and I am happy to hear
that the reverend Sydney Smyth is at present editing one.